Nfld. & Labrador

Longtime friends make company history as Cougar Helicopters' 1st all-female flight crew

A Labrador pilot has made history twice in the past year after being Cougar Helicopters' first female captain to fly a Sikorsky-92 helicopter and then being part of the first flight in the company's history with an all-female crew. 

Allison Rumbolt flew the 1st all-female flight with her longtime friend and mentor, Zoe Webb

Allison Rumbolt sits next to first officer Zoe Webb aboard Cougar Helicopters' first flight with an all-female crew. (Submitted by Allison Rumbolt)

A Labrador pilot has made history twice in the past year after becoming Cougar Helicopters' first female captain to fly a Sikorsky-92 helicopter and recently being part of the first flight in the company's history with an all-female crew. 

For Captain Allison Rumbolt, her June 9 flight was extra-special because she sat next to her longtime friend and mentor, Zoe Webb, in the cockpit.

"She has been there for every step of the way throughout my career, so to be the first female crew offshore and to do it with her was a special moment," Rumbolt told CBC's Labrador Morning in a recent interview.

Rumbolt said it's the first time the two of them have been in a helicopter together in over a decade, and while they were focused on getting the job done, there were some fist bumps and encouraging words shared after they landed.

"At the end of the flight you kind of look at each other and [say], 'Wow, we have come a long way in the past number of years.'

"It's a special moment, for sure."

Old friends Rumbolt and Webb are pictured years ago in Mary's Harbour. (Submitted by Allison Rumbolt)

That flight came two months after she started her new role as a captain, making her Cougar Helicopters' first female captain to fly a Sikorsky-92 helicopter.

'It's been a humbling experience'

After starting her career flying through the brush in Labrador, she needed to build her pilot command time, pass a number of evaluation tests and have a training captain sign off on her skills.

"It's surreal. I have been working towards this and it's been ultimately my goal to become a captain. Everybody looks at you a little bit differently. You have that little bit more respect.

"I have had lots of fist pumps and 'good on you' and congratulations and things like that. So it's been a humbling experience, but I am enjoying it."

Rumbolt, who is originally from Mary's Harbour, said from a young age she knew she was interested in aviation. She spent lots of time at the airport, where her mother worked part time with an airline and where her dad worked in operations.

"I was lucky in the way that a lot of these pilots would let me get aboard these aircrafts and look around and take me for rides. Then when I was about 10 or 11 years old Zoe came into my life as a family friend and I got to experience a whole new side of aviation in the helicopter world."

Rumbolt and Webb, both offshore pilots, have known each other for more than two decades. Rumbolt calls Webb a mentor and longtime friend. (Submitted by Allison Rumbolt)

Rumbolt said she has spent every single shift, except for the flight with Webb, sitting next to a man. She said the number of women flying fixed-wing aircraft is increasing, but she hasn't seen the same growth in helicopter aviation. She's encouraging more girls and women to get involved.

"I think as long as you are good at your job and put the effort in, you work hard and you are not afraid to ask for help, I think you will get the respect you deserve in return and I have been very fortunate to have a lot of respect along the way."

Rumbolt said she looks forward to advancing her career as captain and paving the way for others to do the same. 

"You're responsible for the person sitting next to you and everybody on board, so it's a challenge — but it's a challenge that I love and I wouldn't change it for anything."

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